The most important hiking safety equipment protects you in case you are injured, lost, or caught in inclement weather during your adventures. Though some of the items in the following list might not seem safety-related at first glance, they are essential to your well being and survival. Use this article as a guide for preparing for any hiking trip, no matter the length.
Even if you're an expert hiker, and you're very familiar with an area, you should always carry a map. Make sure it's up-to-date, and try to locate a waterproof map if you can. If not, store your map in a waterproof pouch. Don't rely on your phone's GPS, as reception is often lost in rural areas. You never know when you'll get lost or have to change your route because of a closing or bad weather.
If you've ever been caught on a hike without water, you know how tiring it can be. The fact is, it isn't just tiring; it's unsafe. For that reason, you need to make sure you bring plenty of water along for your trip. Most hikers invest in high-capacity water bottles or hydration backpacks. A great choice is the 100 oz. CamelBak Antidote Reservoir, available at REI. Water purification tablets are also great to bring, as they're lightweight and easy to carry. These allow you to safely disinfect and drink water from natural sources.
A standard whistle is incredibly important for your hiking survival kit. Since it's much louder and sharper than your voice, it can be a very effective tool if you get lost. If you're hiking in bear country, you can blow your whistle several times to warn bears that you're in the area and scare them off. Plus, it's a great communication tool if you're hiking in groups and someone gets too far ahead or too far behind. Since it's lightweight, there's no reason not to carry this hiking safety essential.
No matter the length of your journey, you should always carry a first aid kit during your hikes. Insect bites, stings, cuts and abrasions are likely on hikes, and it's important to be prepared to deal with them. You don't need to pack a large kit, but should have a basic, waterproof kit with several essentials. You can buy a pre-made kit like L.L.Bean's Adventure First Aid Kit, or you can assemble one yourself. At a minimum, you should carry antiseptic wipes, bandages, gauze, tape, sting relief gel, ointment, pain relievers, tweezers, and latex gloves.
To ensure safety, you should always aim to wear the right gear when you begin a hike. Waterproof shoes are always a good idea, and dressing in layers is smart. However, you should always pack extra socks and a rain poncho, no matter how dry the climate. In addition, bring along sunglasses to protect your eyes on bright days, and always wear sunscreen. Insect repellent is usually essential during the summer months.